Cover Story: The Deal Is in the Mail1 Jun, 2012 By: Thomas Haire Response
While Money Mailer has successfully expanded its online and mobile DR efforts, Chris Rimlinger says it’s still all about the envelope.
“Direct absolutely helps build brand,” says Chris Rimlinger, senior vice president of marketing for interactive and direct mail marketer Money Mailer in Garden Grove, Calif. “It drives branding for our business and that of the small business vendors who utilize our services. Those businesses get a 5-second evaluation from the Money Mailer envelope that no other media drives. And emerging technologies — like our app and online marketing efforts — only support our mail that much more.”
Rimlinger, a native Southern Californian, joined Money Mailer in late 2010, from Senomyx, a biotechnology-based developer of novel flavors and flavor enhancers. Prior to that she spent time with ConAgra Foods and nine years with Pepsi-Co, where she was a key sales and marketing player for the Gatorade brand. That broad experience has helped her make the transition to Money Mailer, which has both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing operations.
Founded in 1979, Money Mailer has been the No. 1 “Advertising Services — Direct Mail Franchise” in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500 for 10 of the past 12 years. The company, which is also one of Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing private companies, can accurately target local households in the U.S. with its well-known local direct mail coupons, mobile phone advertising and online coupon distribution across thousands of relevant websites.
“Our franchisees are a huge part of the Money Mailer system, driving the advertisers that make up the envelope, our online offers and our app offerings,” Rimlinger says. “It’s a great opportunity for someone who is looking to open a business but also still feel part of a company. We work collaboratively with more than 200 franchisees in 45 different markets across the country.”
While some franchisees own an entire region — for instance, according to Rimlinger, one franchisee handles the entire Seattle market — other markets have dozens of franchisees, including the greater Chicago area and New Jersey. It’s all part of Money Mailer’s plan that focuses on the efforts of these business owners to help drive customers and sales for their small business clients.
Focus and Experience Breed Success
Money Mailer’s franchise owners work as marketing consultants with the business owners in their own neighborhoods and cities. The idea: to help those businesses reach consumers and achieve their own success.
To say the company has been successful doing that would be an understatement. Looking back through Money Mailer’s 33-year history, you find that it’s been part of Entrepreneur’s Franchise 500 22 times between 1985 and 2012 — a truly stunning track record of success.
The company’s growth and success was a clear draw when Rimlinger joined the company in November 2010. Since joining as the SVP of marketing, she’s also picked up responsibilities for the company’s customer care organization.
“My day-to-day changes rapidly, especially since we added the new departments under our watch,” Rimlinger contends. “One moment, I’m working with franchisee questions; the next I am handling customer care questions; and, just a few minutes later, we’ll be working on marketing initiatives, like our app, the Website and more.”
This broad-based job demands great flexibility from Rimlinger, and her past positions have been a definite benefit to her work at Money Mailer. “Coming from big consumer package goods companies like Pepsi and ConAgra, those positions — both in marketing and sales — have really helped me in this role,” she says. “I’m able to evaluate everything we do, from the app to sales support documents and sales promotions. I am able to assess those sales pieces we provide to our franchisees by looking at it and knowing if it is something I could sell myself. Then, if you look at the consumer-facing side, I am able to utilize our research and analysis to answer questions that pop up, like, ‘How would I search?’ or ‘Is this the best deal available?’
How Money Mailer Works
If you live in one of Money Mailer’s 45 markets across the United States, you probably have a base idea of what the company’s main product offers — a mailed, branded envelope containing coupon offers from local businesses that may offer many services you need.
“Money Mailer is all about local — providing local deals to local consumers, helping local business owners reach those consumers,” Rimlinger says. “Since our first mailed piece in 1979, we’ve grown to nearly 17 million households receiving our mailers almost every month. It’s a great solution for the small business owner. And our research shows that folks open that envelope — moms don’t want to miss anything. It’s sort of like a deck of cards — consumers will pick the coupons that work for them at a particular time.”
But, in the digital age, that envelope — while still incredibly effective thanks to the work of local franchisees who know the local small businesses that are a fit for Money Mailer — isn’t quite enough. “We are always looking for new things that support the envelope, and different usage occasions where consumers can get great local deals,” Rimlinger says. “That’s where our mobile app comes in. Say you’re at a soccer game outside your own area and you’re looking for a place to eat, you can pull up the app and find a great deal locally. It’s the same for our website. Maybe you’re on vacation and you’re looking for something specific to do? We might have something for you locally online.”
“Usage occasion” is a phrase that comes up often when discussing Money Mailer’s consumer-facing marketing — the company also has E-mail and text campaigns that its franchisees can offer to local businesspeople, as well. But, Rimlinger says, the company’s B2B marketing efforts are equally crucial to Money Mailer’s success.
“From a B2B standpoint, our franchisees are fantastic. Living locally, they develop relationships with the small business owners,” she says. “The franchisees are also good at figuring out what consumers in the area may need. We make sure the latest research is in their hands, so they can help the small business owner identify the best possible offer to reach those consumers. What will move the needle from a redemption standpoint? While you might have the best business in the envelope, only the right offer brings redemptions. Our B2B efforts help those business people keep the consumer in mind.”
All About the Envelope
Keeping consumers in mind also means research — and a lot of it, when you’re talking about 17 million households. “We are committed to research, and we partner with MMR in Santa Monica, Calif.,” Rimlinger says. “We do a huge study every year with quant/qual research. It’s about making sure we give our franchisees the tools they need in order to sell.”
One of the most recent studies showed that consumers wanted more entertainment-oriented offers — “bounce houses, bowling, activities,” according to Rimlinger. “We created a sales promotion for businesses in the entertainment category in order to beef up those businesses in the envelope,” she contends. “I was just talking to a franchisee in Chicago, and she’d signed up a local kung fu studio using the promo. This place had never considered advertising in Money Mailer, but the owner got such a great response that he added his other three studio locations to different Money Mailer envelopes.”
Other tests haven’t gone so well, but Rimlinger is as eager to learn from any slight missteps as she is from the top campaigns. “We did a couple of direct E-mail campaigns,” she says. “We bought the E-mail lists, and response wasn’t what we hoped. We learned it’s better for us to grow our own target lists organically. Nothing beats talking directly with our consumers, and when they sign up for our services online, they know what they’re signing up for. It’s not only a better spend for us, but also an extension of our brand.”
The online and mobile facets of Money Mailer’s business are only growing at this point, thanks to that successful self-branding. But how does Rimlinger balance these new technologies with the tried-and-true direct mail piece?
“With our website re-launching this summer, and our mobile app doing well, the balance is great. It’s all related, though, and our print — print advertising in general — will never go away,” Rimlinger says. “People love getting mail. The most current data suggests that the ‘mail moment’ is as important in a household as it was 30 years ago. Consumers wonder, ‘What will I see this time around? I can't afford to miss something, Will it be my kid’s favorite pizza place?’”
And while the company’s digital efforts are going well, supported by such vendors as Diamond Creative, The Search Agency, Silverpop and OTAir, they remain “more of a support tool,” she contends. “Our business revolves around envelope. My favorite slide in our corporate presentation deck shows the envelope in the middle, but all of the other components driving savings around it. All of it complements the ad value a consumer gets in the envelope.” ■